ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

San Francisco Symphony’s Film Series—Charlie Chaplin in “City Lights” with live music at Davies Symphony Hall this Saturday, April 12, 2014

Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower girl, played by Virginia Cherrill, in the silent film classic, “City Lights,” which will be shown Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Davies Symphony Hall.  Guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, will conduct the San Francisco Symphony in live accompaniment.

Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower girl, played by Virginia Cherrill, in the silent film classic, “City Lights,” which will be shown Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Davies Symphony Hall. Guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, will conduct the San Francisco Symphony in live accompaniment.

Slapstick, pathos, pantomime, melodrama, physical prowess, and, of course, the Little Tramp—all of these led renowned film critic Robert Ebert to proclaim that Charley Chaplin’s masterpiece of the Silent Era, City Lights, “comes closest to representing all the different notes of his genius.”  Written by, directed by, and starring Chaplin, the enchanting romantic comedy from 1931 features Chaplin in his greatest role ever, the Little Tramp.  A fellow to whom who everyman could relate, the Tramp was tossed about by life but not so battered that he couldn’t pick himself up and, with dignity, carry on.  This Saturday, April 14, 2104, guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in City Lights with Orchestra.  The program is part of the new SFS film series which delivers edge-of-your seat thrillers, epic dramas, and animated classics on a huge screen in gorgeous Davies Symphony Hall with live music, performed by the San Francisco Symphony.  ARThound has attended several of these film nights and Davies Hall gets delightfully and refreshingly giddy as octogenarians and 8-year-olds connect over the magic of film and music.

The story:   City Lights was released three years into the talkies era but Chaplin decided it should be a silent film with sound effects but no speech.  His beloved Tramp had communicated very effectively with a worldwide audience exclusively through mime—Chaplin’s Little Tramp appeared in over 80 movies from 1914 to 1967—and Chaplin was not going to change the formula.   In City Lights, the Tramp fixes his romantic gaze on someone who can’t return it—a spunky blind flower girl played by the luminous Virginia Cherrill.  He also befriends an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers) who forgets who Chaplin is when he’s sober, providing some of the funniest scenes in any of Chaplin’s films.  As the Tramp attempts to get money for an operation that will restore the blind girl’s sight, Chaplin exquisitely interweaves pathos and comedy to wrench maximum emotion from each scene.  When the lonely millionaire contemplates suicide, it’s tragic. When the benevolent Tramp tries to save him from drowning, and accidentally ends up with a weight pinned to his own neck, Chaplin creates an ideal framework for sentiment and laughs.  But that’s just one example in dozens of the seamless and brilliant storytelling that occurs in this film.   The movie’s last scene, justly famous as one the great emotional moments in films is bound to bring tears to your eyes.  When Chaplin’s friend, Albert Einstein, attended the Los Angeles premiere of City Lights, he was reported to be have been seen wiping his eyes.  ARThound especially loves the scene where the Tramp swallows a whistle and starts whistling every time he breathes, gathering a large following of dogs and hailing taxi’s.

The delicate onscreen chemistry between Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill is a delight to behold.  Cherrill had the distinction of being the only leading lady of Chaplin’s silent features whom he neither married nor was linked romantically to.  He cast her solely for her photogenic beauty—without a screen test—and their strong personalities clashed and he fired her halfway through the two-year shoot, only to have to woo her back.

The music: If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of watching a silent film accompanied by live music, City Lights is the film to initiate yourself with and SFS is your orchestra.  The exaggerated dynamics and exquisite timing, so integral to the visual experience of City Lights, are enlivened by a musical score which beautifully punctuates the film’s epic tragic-comic moments. This was Chaplin’s first attempt at composing the music to one of his films and he wrote many of its stirring melodies while acclaimed composers Arthur Johnston (“Pennies from Heaven”) and Alfred Newman assisted with arrangement and orchestration.  The process took six weeks.  And, as was customary in the scoring for silent pictures, the Wagnerian leitmotiv system was employed with Chaplin creating a distinctive musical theme identified with each character and idea.

According to Theodore Huff’s analysis of the City Lights score (“Chaplin as a Composer” in his biography Charlie Chaplin, New York, Henry Schuman, 1951, pp. 234-41),  Chaplin composed twenty discrete themes and ninety-five cues, not including instru­mental bits that animate the action.  Not all the melodies are by Chaplin.  The score generously samples other well-known tunes, either undisguised or in variational form, from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Old Folks at Home,” and “Scheherazade” to “I Hear You Calling,” “How Dry I Am,” and “St. Louis Blues.”  These mesh with Chaplin’s more generic renditions of jazz, opera, the waltz, the rhumba, the tango, the apache dance, and his blues fanfare for trumpet, a refrain throughout the film.  On the whole though, the score hardly seems a generic mish-mash–it’s tailored to each scene, it ampli­fies emotions, comments on the action, and even creates jokes.

The legacy: When City Lights debuted in New York in 1931, it was so popular that the theater had continual showings from 9 a.m. to midnight, every day except Sunday. According to film historian Charles Maland, “by the end of 1931, the [United Artists’] ledgers reveal, City Lights had already accumulated more domestic rentals than The Circus and over 90 percent of the domestic rentals that The Gold Rush had garnered since 1925.” Critics showered it with praise as well. The Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1931, however, went to another silent film, F.W. Murnau’s Tabu. Many expected City Lights to win, but it wasn’t even nominated. As film historian William M. Drew speculated, “Perhaps Chaplin’s perceived audacity in persisting in making a silent film in Hollywood after sound had arrived … seemed too great an act of insubordination for the industry to honor.”   (quotes extracted from Mental Floss Magazine, February 24, 2012)

Run-time: Approximately 80 minutes, no intermission.

Pre- and post-show Events: Arrive early and visit the lobby bars for a cocktail created especially for this concert!

  • Casablanca (sparkling wine, Grand Marnier, Remy VSOP, lemon twist)
  • French Connection (Grey Goose, Chambord, pineapple juice, sparkling wine, lemon twist)

 

Details: “City Lights with Orchestra” is Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8PM at 8 PM at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco.  LIMITED AVAILABILITY Tickets: $41 to $156; purchase online here, or, call (415) 864-6000. For more information, visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue, at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.

Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion en route to Davies Hall.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice as these also fill up early on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Film, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MTT conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the San Francisco Symphony, mezzo Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Grammy winning mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke guest solos with MTT and San Francisco Symphony this week in three performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.  Cooke appeared this summer at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Seen worldwide as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Met Opera and Grammy® Award-winning DVD of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, Cooke is renowned for her command of Romantic and Contemporary repertoire.  Photo: Dario Acosta

Grammy winning mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke guest solos with MTT and San Francisco Symphony this week in three performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. Cooke appeared this summer at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Seen worldwide as Kitty Oppenheimer in the Met Opera and Grammy® Award-winning DVD of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, Cooke is renowned for her command of Romantic and Contemporary repertoire. Photo: Dario Acosta

Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony in D Minor, the most expansive of his ten symphonies, is a cosmological tour de force.  Full of magic and mystery, it’s the musical journey of Nature coming to life, at first through flowers and animals and then on up to man, the angels and the love of God.  This Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus in this rarely performed epic—in six movements grouped into two parts—which clocks in at roughly 90 minutes, earning it the distinction of the longest symphony in the standard repertoire.   It almost goes without saying that MTT has sealed his reputation on Mahler.  In 2001, SFS and MTT launched the Mahler Project and recorded the balance of Mahler’s major works for voices, chorus and orchestra picking up four Grammys in the process.  The Symphony No. 3 and Kindertotenlieder recording won the 2004 Grammy for Best Classical Album.  Of course, nothing compares to the magic of a live MTT/SFS Mahler performance.  Whether it’s your first or 50th time, each performance reflects a constantly evolving understanding of the composer’s genius and complexities.

Michael Tilson Thomas with the bust of Gustav Mahler at the Weiner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House) during the filming of the acclaimed "Keeping Score" series in which MTT mapped the actual geography of Mahler’s life. Photo: Courtesy SFS

Michael Tilson Thomas with the bust of Gustav Mahler at the Weiner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House) during the filming of the acclaimed “Keeping Score” series in which MTT mapped the actual geography of Mahler’s life. Photo: Courtesy SFS

At Monday’s press conference announcing the 2014-15 season, Tilson Thomas, could not recall how many times SFS has played the work during his 19 year tenure as Music Director (3 times—1997, 2002 and 2011) but he did speak about the joys of revisiting Mahler— “I think of these pieces, these big symphonies, like the Mahler, are like National Parks that we love and we come back to.  We all know the map of the park.  I have the complete map and others on stage have the intricate trail maps of one path or another.  But no matter how much you look at the map of that, when you are actually on the trail, it’s a different thing every time—the nature and character of the piece will vary according to where you are in your life and what you’ve experienced and with whom you are on the trail.  Sometimes, you’ll stop and smell the mimosas and other times, you’ll press ahead to get to the view of the glacier.”

The San Francisco Girls Chorus includes 400 singers from 45 Bay Area cities.  In 2008-2009, the Chorus sang at the swearing in of President Barak Obama and can also be heard of several SFS recordings, including the Grammy winning Mahler Symphony No. 3.  Photo:  SFS

The San Francisco Girls Chorus includes 400 singers from 45 Bay Area cities. In 2008-2009, the Chorus sang at the swearing in of President Barak Obama and can also be heard of several SFS recordings, including the Grammy winning Mahler Symphony No. 3. Photo: SFS

Mahler wrote his Third Symphony between 1893 and 96, when he was in his mid-thirties.  When the German composer and conductor Bruno Walter, visited Mahler at his composing hut in Steinbach am Attersee, Austria (some twenty miles east of Salzburg), he wrote in his memoirs that he looked up at the sheer cliffs of the colossal Höllengebirge and Mahler told him “No need to look up there any more—that’s all been used up and set to music by me.”  This immense rockface inspired the introductory theme of the first movement—a grand unison chant for eight horns evoking the primitive forces of nature.  A offstage horn, also figures prominently in the third movement.  Heard floating in the distance, a melancholy haunting solo imitating an old posthorn or valveless coach horn creates one of Mahler’s soulfully nostalgic moments.

Grammy winner, mezzo Sasha Cooke, was radiant as Mary last summer in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera.   In the summer of 2013, she performed Mahler’s Second Symphony with MTT and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Her expressive and rich voice should be a good match for the dark fourth movement, a Nietzsche text that is sung against heavy strings.  By contrast, the fifth movement is light and will feature the voice of angels—women of the SFS Chorus in three part chorus, joined later by the San Francisco Girls Chorus who enter creating lovely bell like noises and join in the exhortation “Liebe nur Gott”(“Only love God”).   The symphony ends with an adagio, softly walking the edge of the sound and silence.

Cellist Margaret Tait joined SFS in 1974 and is one of the orchestra’s most tenured musicians.  When she plays Mahler’s No. 3, she pulls out her personal card which has markings and memories from previous performances and then “gets down to teaching her fingers how to do that.”  Tate especially likes the middle sections of No. 3 which are “light and very songful.”  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cellist Margaret Tait joined SFS in 1974 and is one of the orchestra’s most tenured musicians. When she plays Mahler’s No. 3, she pulls out her music which has markings and memories from previous performances and then “gets down to reviewing the part and honing the upcoming performance.” Tait especially likes the middle sections of No. 3 which are “light and very songful.” Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cellist Margaret Tait (Lyman & Carol Casey Second Century Chair) has been with SFS since 1974 and currently heads the SFS Players Committee.  At Monday’s press conference, she said.  “We in the orchestra have a deep pool of shared experience, of performing this repertoire on world stages.  When we come to a piece again like the Mahler’s Third Symphony, we can enter the performance with a feeling of security, of asking ‘What can we bring to the work right now that is new and fresh?’  We rely on our deep knowledge of the piece and our understanding of it over years.  This is the only time I’ve had a relationship with a music director that has lasted 20 years.  The orchestra and MTT have been through a lot together and it’s been a wonderful journey for the orchestra. There’s a sense that what we do is deeply American and very adventuresome. ”

Details: “MTT Conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony” is Thursday (Feb 27) at 8PM; Saturday (March 1) at 8 PM and Sunday (March 2) at 2 PM at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco.  Tickets: $30 to $162; purchase online here, or, call (415) 864-6000.  For more information, visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion around the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the harvest with Sonoma County vigneron Wayne Roden and his colleagues from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden in his Cotati vineyard. Photo: Geneva Anderson

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden in his Cotati vineyard. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The morning after the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its September 12 concertthe first in a four concert series at Green Music Center this seasona selection of orchestra members assembled for another kind of performance altogether, this one starting at 6:30 a.m. and involving pruners rather than tuners.  The venue was a small vineyard just West of Cotati, on the farm of long-time San Francisco Symphony violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick.  Instead of the usual white tie and tails, the dress code for this performance was denim and sneakers.  The highly-educated and accomplished harvest crew—including relatives and friends, fiddle players from SFS and a dog named Sophie—all showed up at the crack of dawn to help harvest and crush a bumper crop of Pinot noir.

The idea for the harvest party came about two years ago when Barbara convinced Wayne to do what they do in France during the vendange, when friends and family who help harvest the grapes are rewarded with a lavish feast afterwards.  

Even though ARThound doesn’t play an instrument, I’d heard about the fun they had at the last harvest and was keen to hang out with these musicians, several of whom I’ve interviewed  in the past couple of years.  So, I too, was there—ready to lend a hand, to record the morning’s activities in a series of photos and, of course, to taste such delicacies as Barbara’s roasted heirloom tomato quiche, her heirloom tomato caprese, home-made pesto and amazingly sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, all of which came from her own garden harvest.

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick backstage at San Francisco Symphony.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

San Francisco Symphony Violist Wayne Roden and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick backstage at San Francisco Symphony. Photo: Geneva Anderson

When Wayne first decided to move from San Francisco to Sonoma County, he was thinking about horses rather than grapevines. But the favorable meso-climate of the little farm he bought 25 years ago, as well as his appreciation for Sonoma County’s wonderful wines, inspired him to join the growing league of hobby wine-makers. With the help of his grown son, film-maker Sam Roden, he planted a tenth of an acre in Pinot noir and Pinot gris. Seven years later, he is now in the process of vinifying the sixth vintage of his wonderfully delicious, Burgundian style Pinot Noir. (A glass of the 2012 frankly blew me away with its uniquely spicy, subtle dark-chocolate aromas.)

It’s been a great year for grapes and this was Wayne’s biggest harvest yet—782 pounds of Pinot noir and 168 of Pinot gris. This year’s musician-powered harvest should yield 325 bottles of the red stuff and 50 of the white.

Just as some of the finest houses of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or grow their grapes on miniscule but devoutly tended plots of land, Wayne nurtures his 275-or-so vines with the same diligence and artistry he devotes to playing the viola.  He says it’s hard for him to imagine not being a member of the Symphony after 40 years of playing and touring around the globe with SFS.  But if and when he does retire, he thinks he might like to turn his hobby into a small-scale, boutique wine-making operation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sam and Barbara recently collaborated on designing a new label for Roden Wines, featuring an image of a fine old violin. Once a musician, always a musician!

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

San Francisco Symphony gets a visit from Hollywood—director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams are teaming up for a concert at Davies on Monday, September 16, 2013

Composer John Williams and Director Steven Spielberg join San Francisco Symphony for “Maestros of Music,” an evening of music and film celebrating Williams and Spielberg’s 40 year collaboration on Monday, September 16, 2013.

Composer John Williams and Director Steven Spielberg join San Francisco Symphony for “Maestros of Music,” an evening of music and film celebrating Williams and Spielberg’s 40 year collaboration on Monday, September 16, 2013.

We all love the movies!  Late summer always ushers in the film festival season, a slate of new films and a focus on things cinematic.  This year, San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) programing features a variety of concerts and film screenings that let us appreciate the brilliant composers whose melodies set the mood and atmosphere of our favorite films.  On Monday, September 16, 2013, SFS is going Hollywood when Davies Hall welcomes award-winning composer John Williams and acclaimed director Steven Spielberg for “Williams and Spielberg: Maestros of the Movies,” an impressive evening of music conducted by Williams and film screenings introduced by Steven Spielberg.

Williams and Spielberg have collaborated for more than 40 years on iconic Hollywood films including “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Schindler’s List,” and the “Indiana Jones” series.  Williams returns to conduct SFS in selections from those film scores and others from his celebrated career, such as the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” series.

During the second half of the performance, Spielberg will join his longtime collaborator on stage to present selections from their work together, including film clips projected on a large screen. Williams, now 81, has composed scores for 26 of Spielberg’s 27 feature films to date.  He’s received 48 Academy Award nominations and has been awarded five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and 21 Grammys.

Program:  John Williams conducts San Francisco Symphony with special guest host Steven Spielberg

Richard Whiting (arr. John Williams) Hooray for Hollywood (with film)

John Williams Suite from Far and Away 

John WilliamsThree Pieces from Harry Potter 

John Williams“Dartmoor, 1912” from War Horse

John Williams Star Wars Main Title

John Williams Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with film)

John Williams The Circus Train Chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (with film)

John Williams “The Duel” from The Adventures of Tintin (with film)

John Williams Theme from Schindler’s List 

John Williams “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

     Concert Length: Approx. 2 hours, including intermission.

Steven Spielberg and John Williams discuss their collaboration in the AFI (American Film Institute) and TCM (Turner Classic Movies) “ART OF COLLABORATION” series with this 2011 audience “sit down.”

Part I

Part III

Part IV

Williams will do a seventh “Star Wars” score:   While the SFS concert is all about Williams and Spielberg, we can’t ignore his integral role in the Star Wars series.  In late July, it was confirmed that Williams, who scored all six Star Wars films, will return for the seventh installment in the series.  Star Wars: Episode VII has no name yet and is set to come out in 2015.  Williams has not been briefed on the storyline, but the movie will be directed by J.J. Abrams.  “I’ve loved doing the Star Wars films with all the fanfare and flourish,” said Williams  in a Lucasfilm video interview. “The galaxy far, far away — I feel like I’m still in it, like I never really left it.”

Spielberg Tops Forbes list:  There is hardly anyone in Hollywood who can compare to Steven Spielberg and that comes right from Forbes who recently declared him the Top-Paid Man in Entertainment, earning $125 million in the 6/2-12-6/2013 time-frame that the stats were collected for the 2013 honor.  At 66, Spielberg is still a vital force in Hollywood. Last year’s Lincoln was a critical and financial success, earning 12 Oscar nominations and $275 million at the global box office. Two new TV shows from his Amblin Television, Under the Dome and The Americans, are hits, and he’s an executive producer on the upcoming fourth film in the lucrative Transformers franchise.  There’s also the money he earns from his incredible history in Hollywood as the top-grossing director of all time.  He is a principal partner of DreamWorks Studios.  Among his myriad honors, he is a three-time Academy Award winner.

Other film projects of the San Francisco Symphony: SFS is presenting a number of other special film programs with orchestral accompaniment during the 2013-14 season, including a  week of Hitchcock films—Psycho, The Lodger, Vertigo, and Hitchcock!— all with live musical accompaniment, during the week of Halloween. The season also includes a two-night screening of the film White Christmas, A Night at the Oscars, Chaplin’s City Lights, and Disney’s Fantasia in Concert.

Details: “Williams and Spielberg: Maestros of the Movies” is Monday, September 16, 2013 at 8 PM at Davies symphony Hall, San Francisco.  Tickets and information: This highly-anticipated concert sold out long ago but a number of premier orchestra seats have been released for $139. Purchase at www.sfsymphony.org  or by phone at (415) 864-6000.

Getting to Davies: Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently a 15 to 30 minute back-up on Highway 101 South from Sausalito onwards due to congestion around the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up.  Recommended Garages: Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Film, Symphony | , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco Symphony performs with MTT at Weill Hall this Thursday, September 12, 2013

Grammy award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman, or “Fima,” performs with SFS at Weill Hall on September 12, 2013.  No stranger to the Wine Country, the passionate pianist has a wine named after him—Fimasaurus—a blend of cabernet and merlot produced by John Kongsgaard in Napa Valley.  Chocolate, cassis, and saddle leather lead its aromatic profile. Photo: Dario Acosta

Grammy award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman, or “Fima,” performs with SFS at Weill Hall on September 12, 2013. No stranger to the Wine Country, the passionate pianist has a wine named after him—Fimasaurus—a blend of cabernet and merlot produced by John Kongsgaard in Napa Valley. Chocolate, cassis, and saddle leather lead its aromatic profile. Photo: Dario Acosta

As an appetizer to the delights that await us at Weill Hall in its second year, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) heads North this Thursday, September 12, for “MTT conducts Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1,” the first in a four concert series at Green Music Center (GMC) scheduled for the 2013-14 season.  In his only GMC performance this season, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), who became SFS Music Director in 1985, will lead SFS in a program that includes the highly-anticipated West Coast premiere of young Canadian conductor Zosha Di Castri’s “Lineage.”  Di Castri, 28, is the first recipient of a New Voices Commission a program conceived of by MTT in collaboration with SFS, the New World Symphony Orchestra and publishing house Boosey & Hawkes.  The headliner is renowned guest pianist, Yefim Bronfman, who joins SFS for Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, one of the musical icons of Russian Romanticism and one of Bronfman’s signature offerings. SFS also plays Prokofiev’s otherworldly, outrageous, and over-the-top Third Symphony, based on material from the composer’s daring opera The Fiery Angel.

Program—Michael Tilson Thomas conducts SFS, with guest artist Yefim Bronfman

Zosha Di Castri

Lineage (New Voices Commission)

Tchaikovsky

Piano Concerto No. 1

Prokofiev

Symphony No. 3

Concert is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes, including intermission

Inside Music at 7 PM:   Composer Zosha Di Castri and Peter Grunberg, musical consultant to SFS and Musical Assistant to MTT, will give an informative talk.  Free to ticketholders.

Yefim Bronfman— Affectionately known as Fima, Yefim Bronfman has been a frequent guest of the San Francisco Symphony since 1984.  He last performed with MTT and the Orchestra at Davies Symphony Hall and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University in December 2012 in concerts of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. Among his recent recordings is one of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Mariss Jansons and the Bayerischer Rundfunk (2007) on Sony. He performed Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2, commissioned for him, with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic and released on the Da Capo label. This year The Wall Street Journal praised Bronfman as “a fearless pianist for whom no score is too demanding,” and added, “…a more poetic touch has lately complemented his brawny prowess.”

Zosha Di Castri talks with Jeff Kaliss of San Francisco Classical Voice about “Lineage.” Video by Beth Hondi

Zosha Di Castri— The inaugural New Voices composer, Zosha Di Castri is a Canadian composer and pianist living in New York. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in composition at Columbia University, studying with Fred Lerdahl and teaching composition, electronic music, and music history.  Her work has been performed in Canada, the US, and Europe by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie, L’Orchestre de la Francophonie, the NEM, JACK Quartet, L’Orchestre national de Lorraine, members of the L.A. Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Talea Ensemble.  She has participated in residencies at the Banff Center, Domaine Forget, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne’s Forum, and the National Arts Centre’s summer program.  She was named a laureate of the 3rd International Composer’s Competition for the Hamburger Klangwerktage Festival, won two SOCAN Foundation awards for her chamber music in 2011, and in 2012, tied for the John Weinzweig Grand Prize for her first orchestra piece Alba, commissioned by John Adams and Deborah O’Grady and premiered at the Cabrillo Festival in 2011. Recently, her work Cortège garnered her the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music.

Di Castri’s work includes interdisciplinary collaborations in the realms of electronic music, sound installation, video, performance art, and contemporary dance. Her latest mixed-media works include Akkord I for flute, piano, electronics, and large sculpture, and a collaboration with choreographer Thomas Hauert of the ZOO Contemporary Dance Company on a new piece for electronics and dance at Ircam in Paris. She is also creating a new evening-length work for ICE in collaboration with David Adamcyk for ICElab 2014.

 

Details:  “MTT conducts Tchaikovsky” is September 12, 2013 at 8 PM at Green Music Center. Tickets $156-$20.   Advance ticket purchase for SFS at Green Music Center must be made through the SFS Box Office Box Office at (415) 864-6000 or online here.  You can choose your seat yourself only by phone; if you purchase tickets in advance online, best available seating will be assigned.  Tickets can also be purchased on September 12 in person at the Green Music Center Box Office one hour before the performance.   As of Tuesday morning, there was amply orchestra seating available.

For more information about San Francisco Symphony, visit http://www.sfsymphony.org/index.aspx

For more information about the Green Music Center, visit www.gmc.edu.

September 9, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let the Party Begin! San Francisco Symphony’s Open Night Gala is Tuesday September 3, 2013 with Broadway Superstar Audra McDonald as guest soloist

American soprano and Broadway and television star Audra McDonald is the guest soloist at San Francisco Symphony’s 2013 Opening Night Gala on September 3, 2013.  McDonald, who hails from Fresno, is a 5-time Tony Award and 2-time Grammy winner. Photo: Autumn de Wilde

American soprano and Broadway and television star Audra McDonald is the guest soloist at San Francisco Symphony’s 2013 Opening Night Gala on September 3, 2013. McDonald, who hails from Fresno, is a 5-time Tony Award and 2-time Grammy winner. Photo: Autumn de Wilde

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) opens its 102nd season with its always stellar, always glamorous Opening Night Gala at Davies Symphony Hall on Tuesday, September 3, 2013.   This year, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS Orchestra will host guest soloist Audra McDonald for the evening’s concert of gems from the classic American songbook including hits from My Fair Lady and West Side Story.  If you’ve never heard McDonald’s luminous soprano or experienced the way she energetically embraces an audience, you’re in for a treat.  And glittering Davies on a party night is a spectacle to behold.  The evening kicks off long before the concert—there’s a 5PM cocktail reception, followed at 6PM by four simultaneous dinners: the Patrons’ Dinner inside of Louise M. Davies Tent Pavilion (sold-out); the Wattis Room Dinner (accommodates 70); the Symphony Supper inside of the Grand Rotunda-City Hall (accommodates 300); and the Symphonix Dinner inside of City Hall’s North Light Court (accommodates 200).  All of the dinner packages include preferred seating for the performance. Guests who don’t opt for those packages will have their choice of 1st Tier seating for $295 or 2nd Tier for $160 and will have access to complimentary wine reception in the stunning hall before the concert, and a hopping after-party (~ 10PM) in the Tent Pavilion and on Grove Street, with live music, dancing, food, and an open bar (all included in the ticket price).  One of San Francisco’s most  important social events, the gala’s proceeds benefit the Orchestra’s artistic, community, and education programs, which provide music education to more than 75,000 Bay Area school children each year.

2013 OPENING NIGHT GALA CONCERT PROGRAM:

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Audra McDonald soprano
San Francisco Symphony

Antheil Jazz Symphony
Bernstein/Comden & Green “A Little Bit in Love” from Wonderful Town
Bernstein/Sondheim “Somewhere” from West Side Story
Bernstein/Comden & Green “A Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man” from Wonderful Town
Bernstein/Lerner “My House” from Peter Pan and “Take Care of This House” from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Medley)
Kander/Ebb “First You Dream” from Steel Pier
Edwards “He Plays the Violin” from 1776
Styne/Merrill “The Music that Makes Me Dance” from Funny Girl
Styne/Comden & Green “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi
Loewe/Lerner “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady
Gershwin An American in Paris

Singer and actress Audra McDonald (now 42) became a three-time Tony Award winner by the age of 28 for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime, placing her alongside Shirley Booth, Gwen Verdon and Zero Mostel by accomplishing this feat within five years. She won her fourth in 2004 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, a role she reprised for a 2008 television adaptation, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. On June 10, 2012, McDonald scored her fifth Tony Award win for her portrayal of Bess in Broadway’s The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess tying a record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris for most Tony Awards won by an actor.  She also maintains her ties to classical repertoire with an active concert and recording career, performing song cycles and operas as well as concerts throughout the U.S.

McDonald first appeared with the SFS at the 1998 Opening Gala, performing songs by George Gershwin.  A few weeks later, she joined the SFS on tour to open Carnegie Hall’s season with a special Gershwin 100th Birthday Celebration. The performance with the SFS marked her Carnegie Hall debut, and was both broadcast as a PBS Great Performances special and recorded for RCA Red Label.

McDonald’s recent television appearances include four seasons as fertility specialist Naomi Bennett on the ABC series “Private Practice.”  Her film roles include Cradle Will Rock, Object of My Affection, It Runs in the Family, Best Thief in the World, and Seven Servants.

McDonald’s first solo album in seven years, Go Back Home, was released May 21, 2013 and includes songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, Adam Gwon and other composers.

SFS FALL CONCERTS. The San Francisco Symphony’s fall concert season includes MTT and the Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (Sept 18, 19, 20, 21) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in January during the Beethoven-Bates Festival.  Composer Thomas Adès will perform with members of the Orchestra on October 3, 2013 during the Mendelssohn-Adès Festival, in a new chamber music program featuring two of his own compositions.  A Halloween week of Alfred Hitchcock films includes the first-ever screenings with live orchestra of the film Vertigo (November 1), and Psycho (October 30). In November, R&B balladeer Natalie Cole sings with SFS.  There are a number of holiday concerts and chamber music programs as well.  In March, the stupendous French soprano, Natalie Dessay, will appear in recital.

SFS at Weill Hall:  MTT conducts Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Thursday, September 12, 2013.  Stay-tuned to ARThound for subsequent coverage of SFS at Weill Hall.  Due to the popularity of performances conducted by MTT, this concert, the only appearance of MTT at Weill Hall this season, is expected to sell-out, so advance ticket purchase is highly-recommended.  In addition to special guest pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, one of his signature offerings, the concert also features the West Coast premiere of “Lineage” by young Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri.  The work was commissioned as part of the SFS New Voices partnership with the New World Symphony and Boosey & Hawkes. Tickets need to be purchased through SFS.

Details: The SFS 2013 Opening Gala is Tuesday, September 3, 2013.  Dinner packages can be purchased from the SFS Volunteer Council at (415) 503-5500.  All dinner reservations should be made by Saturday, August 31, 2013.  Concert tickets are $160 and $295 and include a complimentary pre-concert wine reception, as well as access to the after-party in the Tent Pavilion and on Grove Street. These tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 415-864-6000 or in person at the SFS box office located on Grove Street at Franklin Street.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow AMPLE time when driving into San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.  This is the first operational day of the Bay Bridge and there may still be heavy traffic.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up gala week.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up Thursday at Weill Hall—San Francisco Symphony performs Carter, Ravel and Gershwin, with David Robertson, conductor, and Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Marc-André Hamelin plays piano with the San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center's Weill Hall, Thursday, May 22, 2013

Marc-André Hamelin plays piano with the San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, Thursday, May 22, 2013

Ravel, who heard jazz in Harlem with Gershwin, was utterly dazzled by Rhapsody in Blue, which Gershwin played at a birthday party for the French composer.   The piece, composed in 1924, epitomized modern urban sophistication.  Ravel’s jazz-influenced Concerto for the Left Hand, written six years later, was created for a pianist grievously injured during the First World War.  The brooding work is held up as a brilliant distillation of Ravel’s rarely revealed sinister side. Both these pieces reflect the arrival of jazz into the concert hall.   Ravel’s La Valse (1919-20) pays homage to the Viennese waltz and suggests a furious and dark farewell to the gentility of post-war Europe.  Eliot Carter’s non-traditional Variations for Orchestra, from 1955, is not as accessible.  Nothing Carter does in this fragmentary piece is traditional.  He even varied from the traditional way of exploring variation— where a single theme was the basis of a series of contrasting variations.  Besides the official theme, which is an extended and twisting melodic line, Carter’s piece has two other melodic ideas that are subjected to bold variation: scale-like patterns of notes, one that picks up speed as it unfolds, and another that slows down.  It’s exhilarating, abrupt, fitful, and quite intriguing.   This multilayered piece has not been performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 50 years!

The common thread in all of these pieces…the changing of the times!   San Francisco Symphony with David Robertson, conductor, and Marc-André Hamelin on piano, performs all four pieces in its last concert of Green Music Center’s (GMC’s) inaugural season this Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 8 p.m.

The treat: another chance to hear a world-class pianist, Marc-André Hamelin, on Weill Hall’s Steinway in what promises to be a spell-binding one-handed performance of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.  Hamelin, who made his SF Symphony debut in 2006, is the known for “hurling himself with gusto” into his performances.  We’ll expect a full display of agility, precision and passion on Thursday as he tackles the Ravel and reinvigorates Gershwin’s beguiling masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue,  which, sadly, has been so played to death with such mediocrity that we’ve lost touch with its power.

Robertson leads Ravel and Gershwin will also be performed at Davies Symphony Hall, in San Francisco, on Wednesday, May 22, Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25, 2013.

Program:

Carter | Variations for Orchestra
Ravel | Piano Concerto in D major for the Left Hand
Gershwin | Rhapsody in Blue (also featuring solo by Carey Bell, Principal, Clarinet)

Ravel | La Valse

Details:  For tickets and information, call (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Eliot Carter talks about his “Variations for Orchestra” in an excerpt for the film Music Makes a City (2012) winner: 2012 Gramophone Award, Best DVD/Documentary

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Symphony | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra is performing a free Chamber Concert this Saturday, March 30, at Sherith Israel, San Francisco

Members of the striking San Francisco Symphony Orchestra have organized a free concert Saturday evening (March 30, 2013) at 8 p.m. at Sherith Israel, 2266 California Street (at Webster), San Francisco.  This concert will feature a brass ensemble, wind ensemble, and string ensemble.  The hall has seating for 1400 but plan on arriving early to find parking. 

The program —

Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morton Lauridson (BRASS)

Samuel Barber “Summer Music” (WIND Quintet)

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky “Serenade for Strings” (in C Major, Op. 48)  (STRINGS)

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Chamber Music, Symphony | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update: San Francisco Symphony Musicians are on still Strike—Sunday’s Mahler Concert Cancelled, status of East Coast tour will be announced later today

Today’s (Sunday) 2 p.m. scheduled San Francisco Symphony (SFS) concert at Davies Hall of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 has been cancelled. With just three days before their East Coast tour, the orchestra members, who announced their strike on Wednesday, March 13, 2013,  are still on strike. Late night negotiations continue and the musicians have been asked to bring their instruments in to be packed up for the three-city tour in the event a settlement is reached today. The Symphony will give word later today about the status of the tour.  (Read ARThound’s earlier coverage here.)

Along with higher salaries, the musicians are seeking increases in benefits and pension contributions commensurate with the nation’s other premiere orchestras and to offset the high cost of living in the Bay Area. SFS administration and the Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local 6, representing the 103 musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, have been in intense negotiations over the musicians’ three-year contract since Wednesday.  The orchestra is supposed to leave on Tuesday for two concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall, one in Newark, N.J., and one at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Read about the concerns of the musicians’ union here.

Read the latest SFS administration press release here.

Patrons can obtain up-to-the-minute information on concerts, ticket exchanges and customer service by calling the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 and on the Orchestra’s website at www.sfsymphony.org/press.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeking commensurate pay raises and benefits, San Francisco Symphony Musicians are on Strike—Thursday’s Mahler Concert Cancelled

As a way of emphasizing that the Los Angeles Symphony treats its musicians better than does San Francisco, during a protest on Tuesday, members of the string quartet wore Los Angeles Dodgers caps and placed a San Francisco Giants hat on the floor between them.

Just a day before four scheduled concerts at Davies Hall of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 and one week before an East Coast tour, the San Francisco Symphony orchestra announced this morning that they are on strike.  Their contract expired in expired in November 2012, but was extended to February when, by mutual agreement, the musicians continued negotiating and playing.  This morning, the Musicians Union of San Francisco, Local 6, representing musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, rejected the administration’s latest proposal for a three-year contract.  In a press conference today, SFS administration said that their proposed contract keeps SFS musicians among the three highest-paid orchestras in the country.” (The Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic are the other two orchestras).  The current average salary of the musicians is $165,000, according to SFS administration.   

SFS musicians’ current base pay is $141,700 each year, and they receive 10 weeks of paid vacation.

The latest SFS administration proposal offered a minimum base yearly salary of $141,700 in the first year, with multi-year increases to $144,560 by the end of the proposed contract.  During the most recent four-year contract, the musicians’ base minimum pay increased by 17.3%, an average of 4.3% per year.  In addition to the minimum base salary, other musician compensation— radio payments, over-scale, and seniority— raises the current annual average pay for SFS musicians to over $165,000 SFS administration reported.

Along with higher salaries, the musicians are seeking increases in benefits and pension contributions.  They claim that pay and benefits need to be commensurate  with other top orchestras and in accord with the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

SFS administration will present a revised proposal to the orchestra members on Thursday in hopes that the San Francisco concerts can resume on Friday and the East Coast tour can proceed.  The 103-member orchestra is supposed to leave next Tuesday for two concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall, one in Newark, N.J., and one at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Patrons can obtain up-to-the-minute information on concerts, ticket exchanges and customer service by calling the Symphony Box Office at (415) 864-6000 and on the Orchestra’s website at www.sfsymphony.org/press.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , | 1 Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers